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Home » , » What is the theory of transcendentalism?

Transcendentalism was based on the belief that knowledge is not limited to and solely derived from experience and observation. It thus opposed the philosophy of empiricism—that knowledge comes from experience. The transcendentalists defined reason as the independent and intuitive capacity to know what is absolutely true. In the New England states of the United States, the leading American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson taught that the physical world is secondary to the spiritual world. But, said Emerson, the physical world serves humanity by providing useful goods and by making human beings aware of beauty. Emerson believed that people should learn as much as possible through observation and science. But he insisted that they should adjust their lives primarily to the truths seen through reason. Emerson and his followers believed that human beings find the truth within themselves, and so they emphasized self-reliance and individuality. They believed that society is a necessary evil. They argued that to learn what is right, a person must ignore custom and social codes and rely on reason. The transcendentalists believed that the doctrines and organized churches of orthodox Christianity interfered with the personal relationship between a person and God. The transcendentalists said that individuals should reject the authority of Christianity and gain knowledge of God through reason.


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